By Dylan Goldman
The NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell are seriously considering eliminating one element of football that has been around since football started. Because of safety reasons, the NFL wants to completely eliminate kickoffs.
If kickoffs were eliminated, a portion of the roster spots would be taken away because there would be no need for special teams, expect for a field goal unit.
Players like Devin Hester would not have the careers they have had if kickoffs were eliminated, because Hester has made a name for himself by constantly making defenders miss on kickoffs.
There would no longer be a thrilling kickoff return for a touchdown, as plays like the one Jacoby Jones made in Super Bowl XLVII would no longer be possible.
While many don’t think of the kickoff as an essential play in football, it actually can significantly change the game.
If a kicker were to perfectly execute a kick like Sebastian Janikowski was able to against the Atlanta Falcons a couple of weeks ago, then that could impact a game. Janikowski was able to pin the Falcons at the 10-yard line, which made it very difficult for the Falcons to have a successful drive.
Kickoffs also allow teams to get one last play in at the end of the game. Teams can receive the kickoff, and they can try to lateral the ball to each other and try to score a touchdown.
That is exactly what happened in last year’s game between Miami and Duke, when the Hurricanes used eight laterals after the kickoff to pull out the victory.
Finally, kickoffs are essential to football because a player has a chance to swing the momentum of the game after he receives the kick.If a player is able to put his team in great field position, or if he is able to score a touchdown, then the game has been severely impacted on one play.
The NFL has amended its rules so a kick returner has more protection when he receives the kickoff. The league moved touchbacks to the 25-yard line, in an attempt to entice kick returners to not return the kickoff. The NFL also restricted wedge-blocking by multiple players on the team that is kicking off.
Goodell said that the league has changed 42 safety-related rules since 2002. The league also moved kickoffs to the 35-yard line a few years back in an attempt to make kickoffs safer.
A study by Dr. Hunt Batjer says that concussions were decreased by 50 percent during the 2011 season, which was the first season of the 35-yard line rule. The main argument for kickoffs being eliminated is the life-threatening injuries that some players have suffered.
Eric LeGrand, who played for Rutgers, suffered a severe spinal cord injury on a kickoff. LeGrand’s coach, Greg Schiano, suggested that if a team scores a touchdown, then that team should have a fourth-and-15, and they could opt to punt the ball or try to go for it.
The flaws with that proposal is, a team could get the ball for another possession, and a team might not get a chance to get the ball back late in the game. While there have been players that have suffered life threatening injuries on kickoffs, it would be difficult to eliminate them because of the impact kickoffs have on the game.